Charges against two men arrested in connection with a September 2013 robbery and shooting on Mt. Tabor Road in Christiana have been bound over to the grand jury.
Following a hearing in which a defense attorney sparred with one of the victims over whether the incident was a drug deal gone bad, General Sessions Judge David Loughry found probable cause to send the case to the May session of the grand jury.
James Russell, 36, of Spring Street, is charged with attempted murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery, and Bradley Benefield, 26, of Lee Lane, is charged with aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery.
The two men allegedly broke into the Mt. Tabor Road trailer of Shane Jacobs and Rachel Orman on Sept. 8, 2013, and robbed them of $1,600, prescription drugs, jewelry and a Jeep vehicle. During the incident, Russell allegedly fired his shotgun into the floor of the trailer and later shot Orman after she went to a nearby home to get a gun, according to testimony.
Jacobs testified that he and his wife were preparing to go to Texas that Sunday and had packed the Jeep and gone to the drugstore to get his prescription for Oxycontin. A neighbor, Cecil Runyon, who is Russell’s stepfather, rode with them.
When they got back to the trailer, Jacobs said, he went inside and was confronted by Russell who held a shotgun on him and moments later by Benefield, who had an axe. Jacobs testified that his wife tried to come inside, but he kicked the door shut and told her they were being robbed.
Jacobs said he was telling Russell he didn’t have any money when he began scuffling with Benefield, who was able to get his wallet away from him.
Russell then fired the shotgun into the floor between his feet, and Benefield ran out the back of the trailer with his wallet, according to Jacobs, who said he chased him until he passed out.
During the hearing, Benefield’s attorney, Joe Brandon, questioned Jacobs on whether he was really going to Texas and about what type of prescription drugs he was taking and why he needed them.
Jacobs said he needed sleeping pills and had a bad back from a motorcycle injury. But Brandon didn’t buy it.
“It’s a drug deal,” Brandon said.
“You’ve done lost your mind,” Jacobs countered.
Jacobs denied speaking previously to Russell, though he said he’d seen him before. He said he’d never seen Benefield.
Brandon raised doubts about how well Jacobs knew Russell and asked, “Do you creep on him on Facebook?” He also asked Jacobs if he’d ever sold pills to Russell’s father.
Under questioning from Brandon, Jacobs said he got the money from his parents and in-laws and acknowledged that he now takes dilaudid for his back pain.
Jacobs said he’s unable to work because of a back injury and is about to undergo surgery.
“You’ve got a man who doesn’t work walking around with $1,600. That’s a drug dealer,” Brandon said. “I don’t know why he’s up here hissing like a snake.”
Brandon later pointed out that when Benefield got out of jail on bond, Jacobs went to his home and told him he’d “make this case go away.” Jacobs said he told him he would drop the charges if he got his stuff back.
“I wasn’t asking him for money,” Jacobs testified. “I was asking him for my stuff that was robbed from me.”
Brandon contended that Jacobs told Benefield if he returned the money that he would tell the truth, “which is that he didn’t have anything to do with it.”
Jacobs responded toward Benefield, “Boy, you picked one hell of a lawyer.”
Judge Loughry ordered Jacobs to stop making off-the-cuff comments.
And moments later when Brandon started asking Jacobs about a previous conviction for selling counterfeit drugs, the judge told the attorney he had to ask the question in a proper fashion.
“You can’t ask have you ever done anything wrong in your life,” Loughry said.
Orman testified that when she went to the trailer, she could see two men inside wearing black masks and one of them holding a gun on her husband. She said her husband kicked the door to keep her from going into the trailer, she ran to the trailer across the street and asked a neighbor for a gun to protect herself. She said she hoped to use it to persuade Russell to leave.
Orman testified that Russell came out of the trailer and said to her, “Don’t make me shoot you.” He was standing about 10 to 15 yard away when he shot her, she said.
The victim said she was hospitalized and sustained wounds from her big toe up all the way up her left side.
Orman testified that she knew it was Russell because she recognized the gun, his voice and his height and had been told by his stepfather that he had robbed several people.
“I didn’t think he’d shoot me because I knew him,” she said, but added it turned out differently.
During questioning by Brandon, Orman testified she heard after the incident that the two men didn’t plan on robbing them.
Rutherford County Sheriff’s Detective Jamin Humphress testified that Russell had several prescription pills, the Jeep, a .22-caliber handgun and shotgun shells when he was arrested.
In questioning by Brandon, Humphress said he didn’t think it was a random robbery and that there was some sort of connection between the victims and the defendants.
“I’m not sure if it was a drug deal or a drug robbery,” he said.
Testimony by the victims also showed that Runyon made a phone call when they were returning to the trailer from the drugstore.
Benefield is out of jail on a $30,000 bond, while Russell remains in jail on no bond.